This vote was on an amendment by John McCain, R-Ariz., that would eliminate a program known as Loran-C, a land-based radio navigation system. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Homeland Security Department in fiscal 2010.
McCain said Loran is obsolete and that terminating the program would save $190 million over five years.
“In the interest of full disclosure, Loran was around when I was in the Navy, so obviously it is a pretty old program. The President and the administration called it ‘obsolete technology.” I certainly agree,” McCain said.
Loran originally was designed to be an aid to navigation for planes and ships at sea and in rivers and lakes, but it has largely been replaced by new GPS technology. However, now the military uses Loran as a backup in the event of a GPS failure.
“I am sure one could draw a scenario where somehow all satellites fall from the sky and we are deprived of Loran-C, but that is sheer foolishness. If we don’t kill this program, which was recommended to be terminated by GAO [Government Accountability Office] in September of 1981, it is pretty obvious we are not going to be able to reduce or terminate funding for any program, once it gets into production and once it gets its sponsors n the Congress,” McCain said.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., said President Obama has asked that the program eventually be terminated, since it is no longer considered a primary navigational tool. However, Murray said funding for the program should be stepped down gradually, not abruptly eliminated, in order to it down properly.
The bill “does terminate the Loran-C program, and it does so in a way that allows the Coast Guard the time to inform the public and provide for the orderly termination of that program,” Murray said. “According to the Coast Guard, which has provided us information, they do need this funding to remove the high-value equipment and electronics hazardous material. They need it to remediate the environmental concerns and to fund a variety of measures to secure the sites until they are fully decommissioned. This money is not to continue the operation of Loran-C. It is to terminate it in a way that is proper and makes sure that while we remove these stations, we are doing it in a responsible way.”
By a vote of 37-61, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 31 voted for the amendment and 9 voted against it. Of Democrats present, 6 voted for the amendment and 50 voted against it. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have terminated the Loran-C program immediately.